Imagine a man strong and brave enough to fight for women rights. Meet Jeremiah Kipainoi a communication practionier who has dedicated his life to influence policy against Female Genital Mutilation in Africa, through digital media.
He graduated from Daystar University with his communications degree and the Dean’s Award for the school of Communication, Languages and Performing Arts. He later got a scholarship to be part of the Salzburg Global Seminar, where his fire to use communication to fight harmful cultural practices was sparked. Being from the Maasai community, Jeremiah had a social experience on FGM and so he decided to embark on the journey to fight it.
Together with friends, Kipainoi embarked rural village visits under the hash tag #WarriorsOnTour. They ended up visiting several communities in Kajiado, Isiolo, Marsabit and Samburu, most communities practiced FGM.
(Photo courtesy of TheStarKenya)
“I encountered culture shock. I couldn’t understand or speak some languages. I had to learn socio-political practices of various communities.”
I partnered with different organizations who shared the same vision as mine .
Since late 2017, Kipainoi has been working with Anti-FGM activists on a national scale, amplifying their voices through various media outlets and assisting in campaigns against FGM.
“I studied to work in a newsroom.” He said. “I never thought I would be a champion for Child Protection.”
While in Samburu , he got the chance to work as a communications officer at Samburu Girls Foundation, which shelters girls’ from FGM, beading and child abuse in the community has shaped his worldview on his communication background.
He as well works among communities where 12-year-old girls get married off to older men after undergoing Female Genital Mutilation.
“To the communities, this is a cultural norm, he said, In reality, these girls’ futures are bleak.”
(Photo taken in Marigat in Baringo County, October 16, 2014 by SIEGFRIED MODOLA/REUTERS Courtesy of Newsweek.)
The few minutes taken to practice Female Genital Mutilation will have life-long effects on the girls; physical, psychosocial and economical.
“FGM is not like a common cold.” He said. “Drinking syrup can’t make it go away!”
The psychological trauma that these girls undergo are often lifelong.
“I once asked a 70-year-old woman about her cutting experience. Her description was vivid.” Apart from the pain during the practice, becoming a mother and a wife at a pre-teen age, getting introduced to adult chores and womanhood denies them the rights to be children.”
At this age, the girls’ main focus should be school.
“When I see girls reciting poems ,making beads and even singing in school, I envision the impact they can have in this world if they are given an opportunity to complete their education, uncut and not married off.
“FGM needs to be fought from the core, from the community first and if the core is not broken, then it will never stop.”
Kipainoi started the End FGM podcast in 2019, focusing on how people and communities are working in grassroots to end FGM.
“I realized that you can’t end FGM alone. You need to involve people; and make everyone understand and own the campaign… from the village to the city. Everyone!”
His guests compromise of people actively fighting FGM within their communities.
It is the women around her and the hopes of being a father to a girl that makes his fire against FGM burn even brighter.
Jeremiah has 3 sisters and cannot imagine how their lives would have been if the mother did not protect them from going through the cut. Their education would have been scrapped off, the psychological, emotional and physical well-being would have been different.
He believes in communication to create understanding and this has been his main focus while working with various practicing communities. He believes in clear communication of facts and debunking myths, making people understand what FGM is, its effects, what the law says about it and why it should not be practiced.
It is men like Jeremiah that empower women to be their best self in whatever way and are ready to fight for them. Can you imagine if all African women underwent FGM and were married off at the age of 10 to men 5 times their age?
In order to end Female Genital Mutilation, there is need for a Civic Education and meaningful community involvement. Giving a voice to the campaigners in the grassroots is important in making the outcomes of the campaign long-term. People need to start talking. In order for them to do so in public, they must feel safe. Normalizing the conversation among the people is a step in the right direction, and it starts with me, through the End FGM Podcast.
“The cut, cuts away the life for a girl.”
(Photo courtesy of WHO)(Photo courtesy of WHO)